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New York mayoral candidate John Liu shakes hands with a supporter while attending the annual Dominican Day Parade in the Bronx, New York, July 28, 2013 . REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY) - RTX1232A
John Liu
Goal Thermometer

It's not a good time to be a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, the breakaway group of five Democratic state senators who've handed control of New York's Senate to Republicans for their own personal gain—even though Democrats won a majority of seats in the last election. The Daily News now reports that former New York City Comptroller John Liu, who apparently had been considering the race, will challenge Queens Sen. Tony Avella in September's Democratic primary.

Assuming Liu goes through with it, that would make Avella the second IDC member to face a serious fight for re-election this fall. The other is state Sen. Jeff Klein, the cabal's ringleader, who's already dealing with a challenge from former New York City Councilman Ollie Koppell, whom over 2,300 of you have already donated to.

But unlike Klein, who has a ton of money in the bank, Avella is almost penniless—seriously. He has under $3,000 in his campaign coffers. He also has a reputation for being aloof and friendless, and indeed, the News confirms earlier reports that the Queens Democratic Party itself plans to get behind Liu. If Avella was counting on Klein's moneybags to save him, good luck with that. Klein has to worry about protecting his own neck from Koppell, and the grassroots anger at his personal power-grab that's thwarted progressive legislative priorities.

Liu, for his part, is an incredibly energetic campaigner and has a reputation as a good fundraiser. And as the first Asian-American ever elected citywide, he also inspires tremendous fervor from his most loyal supporters in the Chinese community. He has strong progressive bona fides, too, and was heavily supported by the Working Families Party when he ran for comptroller in 2009. Liu, in short, wants to take this seat back for mainstream Democrats.

The only potential knock on Liu is that his treasurer and top fundraiser from his unsuccessful mayoral campaign last year were both convicted of campaign finance fraud and sentenced to jail, but Liu himself was never implicated. If anything, that incident may provide motivational fuel for him: As a result of the scandal, he was denied matching funds for his bid for mayor, a move that effectively served as the death penalty for his campaign. But even at the time, it seemed like an extreme punishment, and as one nameless source now tells the News, "A lot of people feel he got a raw deal."

So watch out, Tony Avella. A popular dynamo with a chip on his shoulder looks like he's coming for you—and the IDC. And in the meantime, while we wait on Liu's formal decision, let's make sure Jeff Klein continues to feel the heat.

Please chip in $3 to help Daily Kos and Ollie Koppell take back the New York Senate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Take out the IDC! (10+ / 0-)

    Rush — the quivering rage heap who is apparently desperately trying to extinguish any remaining molecule of humanity that might still reside in the Chernobyl-esque Superfund cleanup site that was his soul. -- Jon Stewart

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Mon May 19, 2014 at 06:45:21 AM PDT

  •  I live, just barely, in Avella's district (5+ / 0-)

    And on everyday, bread and butter issues he's struck me as being pretty good about local issues, e.g. parks, schools, roads, with a "regular guy" feel to him. I think I shook his hand when he canvassed a while back. But to be honest I haven't paid close attention to local politics since moving back to NYC several years ago. Also, this district has been trending heavily Asian in recent years with thousands of recent immigrants from China, South Korea and elsewhere in the far east, with a lot of Asian business development, which I'm guessing will be to Liu's advantage. Anthony Weiner's former district has a lot of overlap with this district, and his replacement was Asian, Grace Meng.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Mon May 19, 2014 at 06:46:38 AM PDT

  •  In your FACE Andrew Cuomo (6+ / 0-)

    And a pie in the face of all of those turncoat Dems.

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Mon May 19, 2014 at 06:54:00 AM PDT

  •  A 'Democrat' caucusing with the GOP (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, Odysseus

    and handing power to them should be a political death-knell in a NY Democratic primary. I can see a conservative North Carolina Democrat being able to slide by with these antics, but a NY seat with a large minority population - no way.

    I hope Liu sends Avella packing.

    Election Day is Nov 4th, 2014 It's time for the Undo button on the 2010 Election.

    by bear83 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 06:59:37 AM PDT

  •  Can our NYC friends (0+ / 0-)

    fill in more on the campaign finance issue? Was it really happening without his knowledge? Or did he, like so many politicians before him, manage to provide himself a wall of plausible deniability?

    In other words, is he really going to be any better than several of the other progressive-on-the-issues but corrupt-as-the-rest-of-them candidates that we have previously seen in NYC?

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Mon May 19, 2014 at 07:00:42 AM PDT

    •  a good question - I'd rather *none of the above* (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justanothernyer, Andrew C White

      when running for Mayor it seemed like Liu's campaign got a lot of cash from a few people and the staff took the fall for fraudulently trying to spread it out, make it look like a lot of small donors.

      Who really gave the money? We don't know. Did Liu know identity of his biggest donor(s)? We don't know.  But what politician wouldn't?

      I liked Liu's policies but ...

    •  Prosecutors were very aggressive (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In pursuing his campaign and sent two people to jail. They were convicted a year ago. If they had anything on Liu, you'd think they'd have moved on it by now.

      Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

      by David Nir on Mon May 19, 2014 at 08:54:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Don't Think That Is The Point (0+ / 0-)

        The voters appear to be tiring of the constant scandals surrounding NY politicians.  I gave brooklynbadboy a list of candidates who have lost over the last few years who probably would have won in earlier times.

        This is an important assignment and my reaction to John Liu - this is the best we can do?  This is a guy who went from maybe the next Mayor of NYC to getting 7% of the vote.  I keep thinking that we would be better off with a fresh face - an ambitious local District Leader, State Committeeperson, Community Board Chair, etc. who didn't have baggage.

        Maybe I am wrong and the Queens Dem Party can pull this off but my personal experience is that none of the county organizations have the clout they used to.

      •  Yes, but that wouldn't mean he is innocent (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Joe Bruno was just found innocent.

        I'm all for getting rid of Avella but I want to know if we are trying to replace him with a good guy or just another guy with a D next to his name. There are plenty of corrupt D's in New York. I'd rather not help elect another one. We need to clean them out just as much, if not more than, the R's and their enablers.

        "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

        by Andrew C White on Mon May 19, 2014 at 01:40:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think the degree of certainty you're seeking (0+ / 0-)

          Just isn't possible. There's literally no way to know more than we know now. If that lack of certainty is problematic for you, then the only option, really, is to focus on other races.

          Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

          by David Nir on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:48:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You misunderstand (0+ / 0-)

            I'm not looking for certainty. As you say, that is very hard to come by unless openly prosecuted and proved in a court room. All I was asking is whether the folks on the ground in NYC, more familiar with Liu then I am, felt there was more to the story or not. Saying that he wasn't convicted didn't answer that question.

            I've been actively working for several years now to turn over the New York State Senate to Democratic hands but to also make sure those Democratic hands were not the corrupt ones that have been in charge. I am very strongly in favor of going after Avella and if Liu is the guy then great! But I don't want to put a lot of effort into tossing out Avella only to elect an Espada or Kruger or Sampson in his place. That doesn't help us at all.

            "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

            by Andrew C White on Tue May 20, 2014 at 09:22:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Know John personally (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gabjoh, Andrew C White

      My wife and I are very involved in Brooklyn politics and are well known as part of the reform branch of the Democratic Party.

      I was arguably the first person in NYC to endorse John Liu for Comptroller. We got to know John Liu well and we trust him.

      First of all, I want to make clear that in all our fairly extensive interaction with John's campaign, we specifically noticed that his campaign was far MORE careful about making sure all donations were legal than any other campaign we had experience with. Now let me make clear that the Brooklyn Liu team may not have overlapped much with the people who got indicted. But we come from a very critical viewpoint and John Liu's people we dealt with were about the most honest we have come across.

      Second, what Liu's campaign was accused of was relatively minor compared with the larger amounts of money people like Bill de Blasio's campaign misused. In de Blasio's case the campaign was forced to give back a lot of money, but the prosecutor in that case chose not to prosecute as long as money was returned. Liu's campaign was accused of mishandling much less money, but in that case the prosecutor decided to pursue the case. Personally I prefer if prosecutors do pursue such cases, and I honestly think if Bill de Blasio's campaign had been treated the way Liu's was, de Blasio would not be mayor now. Note that NEITHER de Blasio NOR Liu were ever personally implicated in what their campaigns did. My point is merely that Liu's campaign was handled more harshly than de Blasio's even though de Blasio's blatantly misused even more money contrary to campaign finance laws.

      Those are my personal observations relative to this. John Liu is a brilliant man and would do an EXCELLENT job at anything he is elected to. He was the best and most effective Comptroller that NYC has ever had. He has never personally been implicated in any corruption. His campaign people I have personally worked with were more honest than any other's I know of. And, though I admit this is the weakest point, but still part of the equation, Liu's campaign even IF they did what they were accused of was more honest than many campaigns, including Bill de Blasio's.

      Hope that helps. I also know Avella to some degree and think there is some unfairness against him, but then again he chose to ally himself with Repub enablers, so I won't defend him. And John Liu would be better.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Progressive Blogging New York: Write Now NY Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 11:37:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow -- feel like I'm in the twilight zone here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer, jmnyc

    Chris Christie may or may not have been involved in closing a lane of traffic, but his staff most certainly was.

    Holy Hell unleashed on Christie.

    Good old John Liu hires a couple of people to raise and handle money for his campaign.  They don't just misdirect a few dollars, they manage to get themselves convicted of campaign fraud.

    But -- It's good old John.  All is right with the world.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Mon May 19, 2014 at 07:01:04 AM PDT

    •  Do you want to win the seat or not? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He's the best candidate we can field for this seat who can win.

    •  Sorry -- very false equivalency (0+ / 0-)

      Steve Gilliard Lives.

      by Bethesda 1971 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 07:38:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why? It's one thing to parrot a favorite phrase (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's another to give it meaning.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon May 19, 2014 at 07:53:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do I need to point out all of the (0+ / 0-)

          issues with Christie and the differences from Liu?

          e.g.,  there is no dispute that Christie killed the ARC Tunnel and lied about the reason for it.

          anything remotely comparable for Liu?

          multiple investigations of Christie are pending not just re the GWB, but Sandy Aid, etc.

          There is no pending investigation that might affect Liu.

          Would it be better to have someone without even Liu's issues?  Maybe.  But not if that person had a lower chance of chance of winning than Liu.

          Steve Gilliard Lives.

          by Bethesda 1971 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:05:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No two situations are identical, but thank you for (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            helping to make my case.

            Your example of the ARC Tunnel was a political act, but not a criminal one.  I haven't seen any allegations of criminal activity WRT Christie and the ARC Tunnel.

            As to pending investigations, that doesn't mean anything WRT Christie.  Unlike the people Liu chose to handle his finances, there are not convictions.

            Liu might not have known what was being done by the people he hired, but that's another interesting thing -- Christie is presumed to know about everything his people did.

            Is Christie a criminal actor? Maybe.
            Is Liu? Maybe.

            Neither one has been convicted of anything, and one has survived investigations of his people.

            But -- false equivalence?

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:13:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are multiple active investigations (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bethesda 1971, gabjoh

              Into Christie. As far as we know, there are none into Liu. His staffers were convicted a year ago. If prosecutors had anything on him, they'd like have acted by now.

              Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

              by David Nir on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:40:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That funny fudge word "active" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                The thing that matters about investigations is not whether they are active or complete.

                What matters is what they find. So far, Chris Christie has been convicted of exactly the same number of crimes as Liu.  His staff, however, has been convicted of fewer crimes than Liu's staff.

                As to your assumption that "If prosecutors had anything...", what you really mean is "If prosecutors had anything sufficiently provable...".

                It's entirely possible that Liu's staffers acted completely without his knowledge. Nevertheless, Liu is stuck with the fact that he hired two (now) criminals into important and trusted positions.

                LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                by dinotrac on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:47:45 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't really understand this comment (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bethesda 1971

                  I wasn't the one who brought up Christie. Liu has some detractors because of what happened on his campaign—that's fine and to be expected. He'll have to win without the help of those people, or perhaps he'll lose because of those people. That's the long and short of it.

                  Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

                  by David Nir on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:50:47 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Great...really good to see. Liu was my first choic (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bethesda 1971, poco, fisher1028, gabjoh

    for Mayor but I knew the campaign finance issues were going to make him not viable, so I went with de Blasio.

    Liu is a solid progressive up and down the line and will be a reliable vote in Albany.

  •  Just gave the $3.00 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I worked for Cousins in Yonkers to try to get a Senate majority, and now these punks pull this stunt.

    Do what it takes to get rid of these sleazy turncoats.

  •  We Need Three More Challengers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    untorqued, Odysseus

    Two down and three to go!  Replace the faux Democrats in the New York Senate.

    •  any more seats to watch out for? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've been watching this whole affair from afar, and there's one thing I'm not clear on: is the IDC mainly a product of opportunism and Jeff Klein's ego, or is there a conservative mastermind? Because if it's the latter, we not only have to flip these seats, but we have to be on the watch for other seats that we assume are safe but that conservadems might try to flip while we're not paying attention. Is this a game of whack-a-mole?

  •  Not Seeing Koppell or Liu As Good Choices (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think it is great that Klein and Avella are getting primary opponents but I am not seeing either as a good choices.

    I have known Oliver Koppell for years and he is a terrific public servant and a horrible candidate.  He has lost every bid for higher office - a Bronx Borough President's race and a race for a full term as NY Attorney General (I volunteered on that race).  Koppell is right on virtually every issue and his integrity is beyond reproach but he has an aloof and diffident style that doesn't play well beyond his Riverdale base where he is beloved.  Klein is the opposite in all respects but he is a real glad handing politician who connects with voters (I have seen him up close).  This is going to be a very difficult race for Koppell to win although I really hope he does.

    I think Liu's days in elected office are finished.  If it weren't for the campaign finance issues, he might well be Mayor today instead of deBlasio.  However, what his fundraisers did is serious b/c it was an attempt to defraud taxpayers through the matching funds system.  If Liu starts to get any traction at all, Avella is going to pound him to death with this and it will likely be as effective as it was for his Mayoral opponents.

    I think we need to beat both of these Senators but I am not very confident on either of these races based on the candidates that are running.

  •  Why are any of these guys unchallenged? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leftleaner, Odysseus

    Only two of them have challengers? Why?

    •  That's a national dysfunction. (0+ / 0-)

      Many races at many levels are unopposed in the general election, never mind the primary.

      For whatever reason, and they are probably many and varied, candidate recruitment is terrible all over.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Mon May 19, 2014 at 12:25:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  John Liu is a personal friend (0+ / 0-)

    My wife and I know John well and we support him whole-heartedly. He is very smart, willing to listen, and willing to learn. Our experience with him and his campaign (I don't think we dealt with the people who were indicted) was that they were far MORE careful about making sure all donations were legally done than any other campaign we have dealt with. He was also one of the most effective Comptrollers NYC has ever had.

    My wife and I would support John Liu for just about anything he chooses to run for, and we are rather picky about who we support.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Progressive Blogging New York: Write Now NY Find me on Linkedin.

    by mole333 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 11:20:01 AM PDT

  •  Malcolm Smith also faces a challenge (0+ / 0-)

    from Capital NY Queens Democrats also back Leroy Comrie against Malcolm Smith.

    Smith was one of the original Dems who defected to the Rep, switching control, though he now seems to be in the penalty box, not caucusing with either.

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